Day after day, us Panther fans would constantly hear how this team wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t fast enough, and wasn’t good enough to compete in the playoffs, let alone make it.
Here are just some examples of some “writers” that doubted the Panthers:
From Thehockeywriters.com ” You don’t make additions like these ones and not improve over the off-season, even if it is a collection of misfits from around the league. Expect a slight move forward in the standings, but the Panthers will still finish well out of the playoff race.”
From Thehockeynews.com “ Jose Theodore is expected to carry the load and that will hurt over 82 games. There are too many “ifs” in Florida.” They picked the Panthers to finish in 14th place in the East.
From bleacherreport.com “If you were hoping to hear that the Panthers are playoff-bound in 2011-12, you’re going to be disappointed. The Cats are just not there yet.” Predicted the Panthers to finish 12th in the East.
From Thefastertimes.com “No goalie, no scoring, no defense, no chance.”
From Aol.com “The Panthers are most likely a season or two away from gelling and inching toward the playoff spot that has eluded the franchise since 2000.”
From Prohockeytalk.com “Gambles like Jovanovski, Bergenheim, Theodore and Fleischmann seem shaky at best. Expect some improvement but for the team to fall short of the postseason once again.
SI.com “They’ll prove that massive roster changes don’t necessarily make you better or lead to a different outcome. Sorry, but just too many highly-paid mercenary types here now for this thing to work. I mean, $4.5 million a year for Tomas Fleischmann?”
Scott Burnside seemed like the only man that believed from espn.com “With all those new faces and a rookie coach in Kevin Dineen, the road won’t be smooth, but it’s not supposed to be easy. Still, with its influx of talent and veteran experience, this team is poised to be one of the surprise squads this season. Playoffs? You bet.”
Seriously though, the list can go on and on. Everyone counted the Panthers out. Almost every main website had the Panthers at the bottom of the East, thinking about another lottery pick. But this team proved everyone wrong. Even though the season came to an abrupt end last night, there are still so many things to be proud of.
First of all, it seems to me that winning the division was no big deal, but the reality is that this has never been done in the history of the organization and just that feat should be admired. Fleischmann, a player that many believed could not be a #1 guy, proved everyone wrong (even though he got snubbed for the Masterson). I mean there is just so much to be proud of from this group.
The list goes on and on about players that certainly made huge impacts this season. Jose Theodore looked 10 years younger all season long, we saw a veteran like Ed Jovanovski mold a future superstar in Erik Gudbranson all year long. We saw a “Flashmob” line that made us sit on the edge our seats night after night. We saw Bergenheim prove that he has a lethal shot. We saw a player like Kris Versteeg, hopefully find a home team to stay with. We saw Mikael Samuelsson make people say, Booth who? We saw Marcel Goc become a player that we can count on and win key draws when necessary. We saw a player like Stephen Weiss who we all love, almost send our team into the 2nd round with determination and will. But most importantly, we saw a team that loves this organization.
We saw players that loved coming to work, hoping that they can make a difference. We saw the flare we saw the passion, we saw the desire to win and never die. Coach Kevin Dineen did a wonderful job this season bringing a team together that consisted of new faces and molded them into a division champion team. There is nothing to be woeful about Panther fans. Yes, we were one lucky bounce from making it into the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, but although we didn’t make it that far, we certainly made it further than anyone else expected.
I couldn’t be any prouder then I am right now to be a Florida Panther hockey fan. Years of suffering, and disappointment changed all in one season. What I saw during the playoffs blew my mind. I saw people standing up for an entire 3rd period, and an entire overtime period, ready to explode. And boy, when we scored, I couldn’t hear myself scream. This post is not meant to be written for sadness or remorse, but rather it’s a post that’s meant to exemplify the good times we had this season. Although the Panthers have been knocked out of the playoffs, there is one thing for sure I can say, not that we’re out… but I have a message for the rest of the NHL; Last night was not the end, it was only just the beginning.